Molly’s Mac N Cheese Adventures

We decided to have a cooking day on Sunday. I wrote about the Chocolate Coconut Almond Tart, in the previous post. This time I’m talking about our mac n cheese adventures as we followed the Molly on the Range flowchart. We followed the right side, doubled the recipe and ended up with one baked dish and a batch of deep fried cubes.

Making the sauce took longer than expected, though Molly doesn’t really indicate how long it should take. We ended up using less milk because it never seemed to want to thicken up. It finally did though.

This was Fargo, the whole time we were grating/adding cheese.He can sure concentrate when he wants to.

In order to go for the deep fried mac, you need to do all of the steps but the baking. We made the two batches of mac in the morning and stuck it in the fridge for a few hours. I didn’t get a finished picture of the baked version, but it looked like this, with bread crumbs on top. YUM!

 

When it was time to fry, we dug out the VERY rarely used deep fryer and set up the flour, egg and bread crumb bowls.

It was quite a messy process, cutting the mac up into cubes, then rolling each one in flour, egg and breadcrumbs.

We could only put four into the fryer at a time, so four batches of four. It took about $4 worth of oil to fill the fryer. So, it was a lot of work, and a little on the spendy side when all of the butter and cheese is added. They sure turned out pretty! They were really good, needed some salt/pepper, but good.

Both versions were excellent. Our conclusion was that we’ll stick with the baked, since it was as good as the fried, and a whole lot less work. Chalk up another round of kitchen adventures to the empty nesters.

Pictures (except for the flowchart) taken with the fancy camera!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

I bought myself a little present a few weeks ago. Of course I researched, because I do that even for a small purchase. Prior to this year, I used a bundt cake pan once. The pan we have was handed down to us. It gets the job done, as you’ve seen if you follow along, but the ring is wide and the cook space is narrow. It doesn’t result in super pretty cakes.

Ta da!! New bundt cake pan (oiled for impending cake mix in this picture). It’s a much heavier duty piece of kitchen equipment.

While the youngest was still home on break, we did some baking together, WHICH I LOVED!! We decided to take the bundt pan for a spin with a modified Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake from Sally’s Baking Addiction. We subbed applesauce in for half the oil, reduced the granulated sugar by 1/2 cup and added some honey, and split the flour 1 cup wheat and the rest, white.

Looked pretty in the pan when we took it out of the oven.

The youngest wanted to sub in cream cheese icing. We again based it on a recipe from Sally and modified. We used half the butter, then taste tested after each half cup of confectioners sugar. After 1 1/2 cups of sugar, it was perfect!

I’m sure I should have evened up the bottom before turning the cake out, or somehow smooth the batter better. I had no idea how to spread the icing on the cake so it would be pretty. We all ended up spreading more icing on our pieces, so I also should have just put more on to begin with, but it really did turn out fine.

Very, very yummy!!

Here’s a bonus pic of Fargo and the youngest, which you may have seen on Instagram, and is one of my all time favorites.I’m learning about color adjustments, as you can probably tell.

Can you tell which of the pictures in this post were taken with the fancy camera? I’m having a lot of fun with it. I love the bigger lens that came with the deal. I’ve taken tons of bird, Fargo and landscape pictures.

 

Two Wood Projects

Before I begin, best wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy 2018. As I noted in my last post, I want to start off this year by writing about two fun wood projects I worked on. Besides painting and stenciling, I have little experience working with wood, and even less with saws and drills. I didn’t post about these earlier because we gave them all away as holiday gifts.

My first step was to google “wood projects for beginners.” Pretty sure I have about 20 bookmarks for items I really want to make. I thought it would be the smart thing to start out with a smaller project, and I found free plans for a wine caddy on Shanty-2-Chic.com. There is a video with instructions on their website as well.

Hubby and I went out and bought supplies, and then he set up the mitre saw and showed me what I needed to know. Apparently mitre saw = outside use, which is fairly limiting at this time of year. Luckily, this day wasn’t too bad.

I’m sure it took me way longer than it should have, but I was pretty proud of my mitre saw prowess.

Instead of staining them, I decided to use leftover paint from our upstairs hallway because I really love the color. I must say, that I didn’t find it helpful to glue first because as soon as I started hammering the brad nails, the glue job was toast. Maybe if you have a brad nailer to use, it would make more sense. It did make things more complicated in terms of measuring, angles, etc.

Another first for me was using a drill. I love that our drill has a level on it so that you know if you are actually straight up and down.

I also used it to drill holes for the handle.

I really love how this turned out! If there was anything I would change, it would be the shiny silver corners, but after looking at multiple stores and online, there aren’t many other options in a similar price range.

Next was a beer tote by Rogue Engineer. I didn’t want to send in my email address to the site, so I followed from what was online the best I could. I decided to go buy supplies on my own. Apparently I have a learning curve in this area as well, because I had to make a return trip and returns, before getting what I actually needed. It was darn cold windy this time and I had to take breaks to get feeling back in my finger tips. We set the saw up going the other direction, behind the car, to try and buffer the wind a bit.

I cut angles this time!

I made four of these at once and had an assembly line going.

I bought bottle openers online. A lot of bottle opener reviews focus on how far you have to tilt the bottle to catch the top. I figured that with this beer caddy, the actual caddy could be tilted as well if need be.

Again, so darn excited with how these turned out.

I am absolutely making more of these. I enjoyed the project and the finished product. I will, however, need to wait until the temps rise above the teens.

Also, I’ve walked two miles on the treadmill two days in a row. YAY ME! Maybe I’ll get crazy and throw a few minutes of running in there. I’ll see how it goes.

Two Year Blogaversary

Facebook reminded me that a year ago was my first blogaversary. Honed critical thinking skills lead me to conclude that it is now my two year blogaversary. Where do the days go when they fly by so quickly? It doesn’t help that we feel like we lost about four plus months of our year to family illnesses and deaths. I’m still having a little bit of a tough time posting regularly but I’m hoping to catch up over the next week when it will be too cold for me to want to leave the house unless absolutely necessary.

There are no posts about running as it’s been a year since I’ve done any. I haven’t even walked much. This needs to change and I’m hoping to find my mojo and to get moving again. I had actually registered for an event in Oct 2017, but deferred to 2018. Maybe I’ll have some “back of the pack” fodder to share, but it’s so so so hard to get moving once the inertia is gone. Wish me luck.

In the meantime, here are posts I am considering to kickoff my blog in 2018:

The first post will detail what I did with the wood.

I’d also like to talk about our first go at making pickles.

And this lentil stew is pretty incredible, so I’ll write more about it.

Beleve it or not, it’s time to start thinking about seeds for the garden, so I’ll write my annual Fedco/seed ordering post. (catalog pic from last year)

I’m going to enjoy the last few days with the kiddos before my nest empties out again. I’m going to spend some more time learning about my camera. I’m going to think about goals for this blog and for me in 2018. If you are on Instagram, I tend to do a better job with (almost) daily pictures there. I very much appreciate those of you who visit here and follow my Empty Nest journey.

 

 

 

Some Fancy Camera Photos (and some ponderings)

Sorting through all of the stuff from my in-laws’ house, and my house, has included piles of pictures. A few things struck me along the way. One, before digital cameras, a lot of money was spent to develop many pictures, in order to get a few really good ones. Obviously, there were pros and cons to that process. On the “pro” side is all of the memories that sifting through piles of pictures brings back. On the “con” is the piles and piles of pictures to sort through to decide keep vs pitch.

Second, since digital cameras, the freedom to keep snapping picture after picture in the search for good ones, is tremendous. Knowing there won’t be money spent on developing rolls of film, means that newbies such as myself, can just go crazy.

Third, it takes a conscious effort to print out pictures and have hard copies. I think it’s an important thing to do. If you aren’t great about backing up the contents of your computer (me!), then it is especially important. After the eldest’s graduation, I made a photo book from an online site, something I haven’t done in a long time, and ordered some prints as well. I need to do this again.

In the meantime, I will share a few (of the many, many, many I have taken) with you here. Fargo may be getting tired of being my main model, though he hasn’t said so yet. The kiddos are in here too, while they’re home, and I love snapping the sunrises and sunsets.

Capturing good news for the eldest.

Keeping Busy

I’ve been keeping busy the past few weeks. Still cleaning out the house, trying some new hobbies, continuing with some old ones, prepping for the kids to come home (they’re here…YAYAYAYAYAY!!!!!!!). I’m going to savor the days with the family and then I’ll be ready to kick 2017 out the door.

I’ve been busy in the kitchen…

I’ve been busy with a secret new hobby project (I used a mitre saw and a drill!)…

Fargo helped me make beds for the kids….

And I’ve been playing with the fancy camera some more (post of pictures forthcoming)…

Now that it seems both kids will be staying on the West Coast for a while, I’ve been doing some deeper empty nest reflecting. I may try to share some of those thoughts, though I haven’t decided yet. This has mostly been a more lighthearted blog and I need to decide where to go with this in the new year.

Thank you to those who have continued to follow along with me on this journey!

 

My Own Fancy Camera

After a lot of research and discussion with hubby and agonizing (as is my usual mode of operating), there is a new fancy camera in the house. It actually arrived about a month ago, but I really started just playing with it a few days ago. I’ve been a little afraid to really mess around with it and I’m hoping the youngest will give me lessons when she gets home for Winter Break.HINT HINT!

For now, it’s all set to automatic, pretty much pointing and clicking. I’m pleased with picture quality so far.

Of course, Fargo and a spectacular sunrise are both pretty easy subjects. I’m very excited to learn more and to (hopefully) share some cool pictures here after putting the camera to work.

Cleaning Out

This has been our focus the past few weeks. Dealing with so much stuff from my in-laws’ house prompted us to take preemptive action here. How is it possible to accumulate SO MUCH STUFF!?!?! Of course, much of it can be chalked up to sentimentality. But the rest is just not going back through it all every few years to clean out the crap.

We opted for a staycation last week to try and get a handle on our house. Four heavy bags of paper went to the curb for recycling. Garbage cans were full as well. But now there are piles of “what the heck should we do with this” stuff. It’s random, no solid theme, and very few large items. We have china, beanie babies, old cameras, sheet music, statuettes, Disney VHS tapes, etc.

It took way longer than it should have, but I posted 9 whole things in ebay. No takers yet. Here are a few of them.

See what I mean? No theme. I keep hoping, as most people I’m sure do, that something in the piles will be worth millions. So far, no dice.

I want it all gone. I want to work towards only having stuff we really use, or which has sentimental value left. It’s a LOFTY goal, that’s for sure. Hoping the kiddos appreciate this (way) down the road.

Pergola Proud

Every day I have good intentions of putting together a blog post. It actually takes way more mental energy than one might think, and I’m low on that lately. We still have a lot of rough family stuff to deal with, though I’m REALLY hoping we are on the other side of most of it now. The girls are good, which helps. We’ve crossed a few things off the huge to-do list, which helps. I’m cooking/baking some yummy stuff again, which helps. Fargo keeps us busy, which helps.

I realized, as we ate lunch in our new and beautiful outdoor space yesterday, that I never wrote the “we finished the pergola” post. Although it took longer than anticipated, and due to The Lost Summer we haven’t been able to use it as much as we anticipated, it is done and it is wonderful. Neither of us can believe how it has changed the patio space into so much more than it was.

You can go back and see the earlier stages of the project here: Pergola I and Pergola II. We had gotten as far as putting enough of the structure together that it was time to fasten it to the concrete. Unfortunately, that process was more intense than we had anticipated. Between needing (very good) friends and relatives to lift the sucker into place, to chalking out where it would sit, to moving it away again, and then moving it back once the rubber footers were fastened, all proved challenging. The fastening was a hurdle as well, since the lag bolts kept breaking off and we had to get new ones. Finally, the fastening was done.

And the structure was attached.

This particular pergola has a high table on one side and a bench seat on the other. Next step was the table.

Fargo supervised, as per usual.

At that point, we decided not to use the bench seat. After spending some time walking around the patio and assessing the things, it seemed like it would close in the space too much. I am very happy with our decision.

We found some high stools to go with the high table. We mixed and matched some end of the season outdoor furniture. We attached a shade above the high table that can pull down to the ground (if necessary) and block the setting sun. The shade makes the space usable, as the hot late afternoon sun was one of our main problems.

It’s pretty fantastic!

We are hoping to use the heck out of it starting next Spring. I enjoyed working with hubby on this project and I’m hoping we can do more empty nest building of stuff together.

Sauerkraut

It was about a year ago that a friend and I got to talking about sauerkraut, of all things. She had made some and then was nice enough to bring a jar in for me. It was awesome! Being the wild and crazy empty nester that I am, I decided right then that I wanted to add cabbage to our garden this year, specifically to make sauerkraut. Hubby was totally on board.

I opted for Gunma from Fedco Seeds after reading all of the descriptions. The resulting cabbages were HUGE!!! We had four of these suckers!

My friend loaned us her Ball Canning book when it was time to shred. Sounded pretty simple, but it was a LOT of shredding.

As I shredded each batch, hubby salted it. I guess I didn’t realize that sauerkraut is simply cabbage and salt left on its own to do its thing.

There are quite a few ways to ferment the cabbage into sauerkraut, we opted for jars. Thanks to my friend, Beth, who gave me many jars of grain to grind, there were a few large ones in the house. Hubby smashed the cabbage down into the jars while I still continued to shred.

Once we filled four jars, we used cheesecloth to cover the cabbage and sewing weights in sandwich bags to hold the cheesecloth down.

 

Time to stink up the house! Every few days we removed the scum that formed, but otherwise, it was low maintenance. Fast forward to five weeks later. We used the smaller three jars this morning for the first batch of canning. We need to get some more small jars in order to do the rest.

We tried the “raw” sauerkraut, but it definitely has a different taste, neither of us was super excited about it. We again followed the directions from the Ball Canning book and cooked the cabbage until simmering.

Ta-da! And I can tell you, as we dropped sauerkraut everywhere and ate the dropped blops trying to get it into the smaller jars, that it is crazy delicious.

As soon as we have time, we’ll do the rest. It will be interesting to see if a few days more of fermentation makes any difference in the taste. It’s definitely going to be an every year thing!

Special note: As an early anniversary/holiday gift, we picked out a fancy camera for beginners. Hopefully it will improve the pictures on the blog…once I actually learn to use it.